What's in a Wand?

It'd be hard to argue that there is a more iconic magical tool in existence than the Magic Wand. When we see a wand, we know there's magic afoot. The historical and mythological origins of the wand weave through various cultures and times, right through to the Glindas, the Dumbledores, and the weirdos that hang out in crystal shops. Usually they're found in the hands of those who are wise to (or at least attempting to interact with) the unseen forces of the universe. 

Jesus raising Lazarus. Catacombe de Via Anapo, Rome

The goddess Circe turns Odysseus's men into pigs with her magic wand. 

Perhaps the journey of the wand stretches a little further beyond these ancient roots, too. The original incarnation of the wand might've been the first tool our prehistoric ancestors ever used - after all, a wand is just a good stick, right? A stick that can reach a little bit further, dig a little deeper, has a little more leverage, or draws with a little more detail in the sand than the human finger can.

 diggTools used among chimpanzees inhabiting the Ugalla region of western Tanzania.

Tools used among chimpanzees inhabiting the Ugalla region of western Tanzania.

Sit around a fire long enough (like, thousands of years) and someone's going to want to poke it with a stick. Now we've got a red-tipped pointer for join-the-dots in the stars, or telling epic stories with emphasised gestures and dramatic lighting, the drawing of fleeting scribbles in the air, or warding off whatever that is lurking in the shadows, just outside our fire-lit circle of protection.

The prehistoric symbol for "whatever the fuck you are, don't come any closer"

But not everyone is responsible when wielding a fire-stick, as anyone who's camped with more than one unruly hippy kid knows; at a certain point, the less fire-sticks, the better. So perhaps in larger groups, this fire-poker thing is best in the hands of the wisest (enter, wizards) for most of the time. You could make it work if everyone can agree to share it around and avoid having too many stories or burning sticks at once, (and those groups that do might've just created the first talking-stick) but let's face it, some people spin a better yarn than others. So it would make sense that she or he who wields the stick most often, is probably telling the best stories, knows most about the stars, draws the best sand maps, and is crazy enough to charge at unseen things in the dark and come back to tell the tale. it's just fire-stick logic.

An orderly camp fire; not an unruly hippy kid in sight

It wouldn't take long for us to find that not all sticks are equal though. Some have way cool twists, or gnarly bits that kinda look like your late grandmother's nose. Some might be from a tree that was struck by lightning the night the drought finally broke. Some have just got that perfect balance of length, strength and taper to be the ultimate primitive multi-tool; totally worth keeping tied to your waist for whenever you might need it! One might've been your dad's favourite fire-stick, that he got from his dad; the one he only used on special occasions, that carries special memories and feelings, and has that soft, aged, worn-in texture you simply cannot get from a greenwood.

Our son's Lightning wand, carved from a Silky Oak that was struck by lightning

And somewhere in here, the archetypal wand must be evolving. Sticks with stories are emerging, sticks with meaning. Meaning that elevates the mundane into the magical, that connects it with the life of it's own stories, and with the stories of wands that came before. The story of wood, of tree, of the world tree, with roots diving down into the underworld and branching out into the heavens. The story of extended reach; that allows the human to pierce through the sphere of their regular influence, and into extra-dimensions beyond arms-length. The story of a tapered shape, that starts at the body with a solid handle to hold, and gradually becomes finer, or more concentrated, as if to funnel a flow in an intended direction, as it's tip converges with the invisible.

So a wand is born with wand stories, and grows it's own stories from there. They may come from it's history, the type of wood, who it was made by, where it was found, the shape it has, the dimensions it was measured by, what oils used on it, the spells that were worked with it, the symbols carved in it, and so on. The more meaningful connections, or correspondences, the more stories it connects to. There's no shortage of tried and true magical texts, traditions and tiktoks that will prescribe various instructions for creating and consecrating wands; and these are excellent places to mine for meaningful stories - as with anything in life, it usually doesn't hurt to look to trusted sources with more experience to learn a trick or two. 

The Magic Circle, by John William Waterhouse (1886)

No need to reinvent the wheel, or magic circle
 The Magic Circle, by John William Waterhouse (1886)

But your wand's story can be anything; whether that be that you spent a month getting all the right bits to make one, following the instructions in a old magic book to a tee, or you were playing fetch with your dog and he serendipitously brought back an amazing spiralled stick by accident, or you read an enchanting wizard blog online, and you're not even really sure why but you just kept on reading…and by the end you were really wondering about these wands he’s selling…”well they are quite beautiful”, you justify…and even though you were a little suspicious that he might have been using a spell to influence you, you figured - "what the heck? if he used a spell and it worked then he's a legit wizard, and his wands must be lit! And if there’s no spell, then I just want it out of my own volition! It’s a win-win!"

(But really, it's the wand that chooses you, remember?)

Wizards blogging be like...

And as for whether a lit wand (or any object) holds magic or stories beyond the psychological associations we give it, is a topic that a room full of wand wielding wizards would likely never agree upon. If i hadn't been hogging the talking-sitck for so long already, i'd share a few thoughts on that too, but suffice to say that the scientific evidence for intention affecting the properties of matter is out there (and there, and here) i suggest you let the wizards squabble and heed my advice; which is to operate as if they are inherently magic, because it works better, even if they aren't. 

Besides, I believe there's a part of you that believes, even if you think you don't. A part that stretches back thousands of years, through thousands of camp fires, through thousands of stories, that knows that the wand-holder is a wisdom keeper, a story teller, a spell-caster, a wielder of influence over the unseen world. And if you can get your doubting-ass out of the way, just for a moment, you can let that part of you do the magic stuff. 

"Are you a good witch, or a doubting-ass witch?"

So a confession: there is a spell at work here, but not one to sell wands. It's a spell that ensures that anyone who reads this has a good enough story to feel like they can make a wand of any stick they find. that your wand magic already exists. So if it's a wand you want, go for a wander, find a wonderful stick, and write with it a new chapter in the story of wands. The wizards of old will be glad that you're keeping the story alive, and they might just share some of their magic with you too.

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